Dealer Team Vauxhall (DTV) - Vauxhall Firenza 1972

The colour scheme and livery of this racing Firenza is specific to the 1972 race season and a particular Vauxhall Firenza, TJE535K, that was entered by DTV for Gerry Marshall.  

This was the first year of Group 1 regulations being used and the cars were only lightly modified, built to Production Saloon regulations, but allowed to run on racing slick tyres in the Castrol Production Saloon Car Championship (Group One) and also the Britax Production Saloon Championship, with the British Saloon Car Championship not adopting Group 1 regulations until the 1974 season

In 1972, DTV and Gerry Marshall raced a Vauxhall Firenza 2000 SL, that during the season was homologated to a 2300 engine and had great success, winning Class B of the Championship and Gerry helping to win the BARC President’s Cup.

There was the odd incident with the Firenza in 1972, this included rolling at Brands Hatch on two separate occasions due to rear hub failures, one leading to Gerry being trapped upside down in the car, whilst on fire before a brave marshal managed to free him, making headlines in several national newspapers. The car was also involved in a head on accident at Oulton Park with the late Tim Stock in a similar Firenza, who span in front of Gerry, who had no way of avoiding hitting Tim.

At the end of 1972 the Firenza was converted to a rally car and was to be used by Gerry on the 1973 Tour of Britain. During a pre-Tour event in May, the Gearbox Rally, Gerry rolled, leading to broken ribs and the car necessitating a re-shell and DTV deciding Gerry should not compete on the Tour.

It then became Will Sparrows DTV rally car, winning its class on the 1974 Lombard RAC Rally, before being used to develop the Lotus-inspired Twin cam engine for DTV’s rally programme and ending up in Castrol colours.

The original car in rally form, recently resurface in Ireland and has now been brought back to England, refreshed, keeping in the latter Castrol colours and rally specification and is rallying all over Europe – in Italy this very weekend for one.

For 1973 and 1974 DTV raced a brand new Group 1 Firenza, with a different colour scheme, but focus was on Special Saloons and the odd Group 1 race (Silverstone RAC TT), with 1974 being the start of the relationship between DTV and Castrol.

DTV returned to Group 1 for the 1976 and 1977 seasons (Keith Prowse and Tricentrol British Touring Car Championship), with Gerry winning his class in the Magnum 2300 in 1976 and the fantastic 1st in class and 2nd overall result in the Spa 24 hour race of 1977, with Vauxhall pulling out of motor racing at the end of 1977.

This particular Vauxhall Firenza was built in 1974 and is one of only 204 Vauxhall Firenza ‘Droop Snoot’ HPFs or High Performance Firenza, based on what was then the Vauxhall Firenza Sport SL 2300 (which became the Vauxhall Magnum 2300). Unfortunately due to the fuel crisis, Vauxhall dropped the Firenza for 1975 and the remaining nosecones and body shells were put to good use, with the nose being used on 196 Vauxhall Sportshatches (Estates) and the body shells used on the frugal 1256 Vauxhall Viva E Coupe.

This original road car was bought by Gregor Marshall in 2006 and built into a Group 1 race car, with input from Bill Blydenstein and Denis Bissell (who raced a Vauxhall Magnum in the  British Saloon Car Championship in 1974). Over the last year, the car has been rebuilt by Neville Powell of NHP Motorsport. 

Whilst the ‘Droop Snoot’ nose was not homologated for racing, the rest of the car is built to Group 1 specification and Goodwood very kindly invited me to compete with the car in the Gerry Marshall Trophy, this being the car’s first race in 13 years and my third GM Trophy, after competing in the 72nd and 77th Members’ Meetings.